In late January, Empire actor and activist Jussie Smollett was hospitalized following a reported homophobic and racist hate crime in Chicago. Now, just a little over three weeks later, Smollett has turned himself in after being charged with making a false police report, AP reports.
Smollett’s charge came in on Wednesday (February 20), and Smollett reportedly surrendered to police early Thursday morning. If convicted, he could face up to three years in prison and potentially be forced to pay for the cost of the investigation into his reported assault.
At a press conference Thursday morning, Chicago Police Chief Eddie Johnson called the reported attack “shameful” and a “publicity stunt” arranged because Smollett was “dissatisfied with his salary” on the show.
Details of Smollett’s attack — where two men apparently shouted slurs at him, beat him up, poured a chemical substance on him, and left him with a noose around his neck — were horrific. Less than a week after leaving the hospital, Smollett returned to the stage at the Troubadour in Los Angeles for a concert performance surrounded by a support system of family and fans. “I’m not fully healed yet but I’m going to,” he said from the stage. “I’m gonna stand strong with y’all.”
As investigators probed into the case, they identified two brothers who apparently knew Smollett — one of whom had appeared as an extra on Empire — and who told police Smollett hired them to coordinate a false attack, The New York Times reports.
Last week, the actor appeared on Good Morning America to address the incident as well as those who doubted his tale. “I’m pissed off,” he said. “It’s the attackers, but it’s also the attacks. … I have to acknowledge the lies, and the hate. And it feels like if I had said it was a Muslim, or a Mexican, or someone black [who attacked me], I feel like the doubters would have supported me much more. A lot more. And that says a lot about the place that we are in our country right now.”
Smollett’s attorneys released a statement saying that their client “enjoys the presumption of innocence, particularly when there has been an investigation like this one where information, both true and false, has been repeatedly leaked.”
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